The title of this post is a sentence being used by a Pod Delusion podcast contributor to justify his argument that the LHC is a waste of money.
I obviously strongly disagree with this.
However, note that the key word in his sentence is “discoveries”.
Now, I know that there are plenty of practical uses that have emerged from particle physics over the last 50 years (WWW, PET, MRI, surperconductors in power transmission, cancer therapy, etc, etc). In fact, that was the basis of my response post explaining the value of blue sky research in terms of spin-offs and unexpected inventions.
But the “rules of engagement” appear to be this: has there been any application of the newly gained knowledge of the structure of matter? Rather than the obvious spin-off usages for the tools used to probe the structure.
So, for example, particle accelerators are used to treat cancer (Proton Therapy). But this wouldn’t count as an example as the particle accelerator was developed as a tool to “play with particles”.
Basically, I want to know if we have built anything by knowing more about atoms than just protons, neutrons and electrons.
- Has the knowledge that, say, a proton is made from two up quarks and one down quark been useful in the invention of something?
- Has the knowledge that, say, an up quark has a charge +2⁄3 e proved useful?
- The Tau particle was detected in the 1970s. Has there been any practical application of this knowledge since?
I’d suggest that it is a ridiculous rule to disallow the technology spin-offs in the first place. Those technologies were definitely invented as a direct result of scientists wanting to probe matter, and that, for me, is the important point.
What do you think?
Reddit discussion of this post.
The Value of Curiosity Driven Research (my response argument to the original report).